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As masking requirements ease, MaineHealth issues reminder that precautions remain in health care settings

State and federal guidance explicitly exempts health care facilities from new guidelines for masking and social distancing among those who have been fully vaccinated

PORTLAND, Maine — In a release Friday, MaineHealth issued a reminder to the public that, even as state and federal public health agencies ease masking requirements and social distancing recommendations for those who are fully vaccinated, its hospitals and clinics will continue to require those precautions for everyone.

“Already, we’ve had people arriving at our hospitals and clinics and asking why they must still wear a mask and maintain social distancing,” Dr. Dora Mills, chief health improvement officer with MaineHealth, said in Friday's release. “The answer is that the new guidelines from the U.S. CDC specifically say health care settings must continue to require masks and practice social distancing.”

The U.S. CDC has said that those who are fully vaccinated – meaning people who received their final vaccine dose at least two weeks ago – can safely go without a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings. The guidance remains unchanged for those who have not been vaccinated. Maine Gov. Janet Mills in turn announced the lifting of a statewide mask mandate in many public settings as of May 24. There are, however, exceptions, including schools, day care facilities, public transportation, and all health care facilities.

“Though we’ve done a fantastic job in Maine getting our people vaccinated with more than 50 percent now fully protected, there is still a fair amount of disease in our communities,” Dr. Dora Mills said. She added that it's important people understand precautions are still in place in health care settings, not only so they can be prepared should they or a loved one need care, but also so they can have confidence that hospitals and clinics are safe.

“People shouldn’t put off getting the care they need, and they should know we continue to do all we can to keep them safe when they come to us for care,” Dr. Dora Mills said.

MaineHealth says the masking requirement applies to all patients, staff and visitors in health care settings. Additionally, MaineHealth says restrictions on visitors remain in place across its facilities. Those will be reviewed going forward as appropriate given federal and state guidance and the level of risk in the community, according to MaineHealth.

“We’ve made tremendous progress, but we are not done yet,” Dr. Dora Mills added. “Masking and social distancing have been important tools during this crisis, and they remain essential to assuring the safety of our patients and our care team.”